jQuery Slider

You are here

Andrew Brunson Offers a View of Impending Persecution -- Part 1

Andrew Brunson Offers a View of Impending Persecution -- Part 1

Rick Plasterer
Juicy Ecumenism
September 22, 2023

Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who served in Turkey from 1993 to 2016 and who then spent two years in prison on ludicrous charges of participating in a failed coup d'etat before being released following the intervention of President Trump, spoke at a breakout session of the Family Research Council's 2023 PrayVoteStand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 16.

He said that he believes that "a dark wave of hostility and persecution is about to break on the church in the United States." He called it "a churning, dark wave," and said that he believes that "it is fast approaching." He thus offered "a counternarrative" to the positive themes of other speakers at the conference. But he is convinced that the near future will be painful and bleak, and many Christians in America don't have the "sense of urgency" that they should have. Thus, people are not prepared, and in particular, they are not psychologically prepared for persecution. This is not a situation, he believes, in which "we can pray ourselves out of it, or that we can vote ourselves out of it." The wave of persecution is "almost unavoidable," he believes.

Brunson believes that "persecution can be much more difficult than many people expect." Christians who have lived in religious freedom, such as has existed in America, know of persecution mostly from what they hear and read. Biographies of saints who remained faithful under enormous pressure are recounted and are inspiring, but persecution which is personally experienced is far different. Persecution can end in triumph, it can purify, it can even attract people to Christian faith, but while it is being experienced, one does not know that there will be relief in this life, and the pain of the predicament is constant and pressing.

In his own work as a missionary in Turkey, there were "bomb threats and death threats," yet his ministry continued to prosper, and his perspective on possible persecution was one of some "bravado." He believes that this is particularly characteristic of Christian leaders. The prospect of it happening can be anticipated with a measure of "strength" and "joy." This is the "idealized view" of persecution that many people have.

The Reality of Persecution on the Ground

But the truth is that "persecution brings people to a point of crisis." It can strengthen faith, or it can move people away from God. Experiencing persecution for the sake of Christ will certainly bring eternal rewards, "but it may not happen in this life." Further, it is not only the individual Christian who may "pay a price" in this life, "but also your loved ones." The consequences, he said, can last "many, many years." While it may only be that one or one's family is "humiliated or hated or despised or called evil, this can also be very difficult." It can cause people to leave the faith. The state may threaten to take one's children, a situation which can be expected to happen when one dissents from the state religion or ideology. This is in fact now the case, he said, in California and several other states, if parents object to a child's self-chosen (and perhaps coached by school counselors) gender identity.

It was pointed out that Jesus warned of persecution, particularly from family members who are unbelievers, or who are complicit with state authorities. There can also be financial pressure, when clergy or missionaries lose financial support due to persecution, or Christians lose their jobs or property due to state or social hostility. He contrasted the condition of the United States when he left the country in 1993 to the environment when he returned in 2018. Being a Christian in the twentieth century was a "social positive," something a prominent person would want to publicize, and Christian morality was "normative," whether people always lived by it or not. And so he was shocked to see the degree of hostility to orthodox Christian faith and morals that he found on his return to the United States. Both, but especially Christian morality, is "repudiated" as "harmful," and held to undermine the social good.

People hostile to traditional Christianity have taken control of all major institutions, including "the news media, arts, entertainment industry, social media, professional sports, law, medicine, public health, Wall Street, corporate boardrooms, NGOs, universities, public schools, the administrative state, and even increasingly, the higher levels of military leadership." The leadership of these institutions seek "to impose a progressive agenda on society." It is not necessary for them "to be in the majority." Instead, these elites have the most important platforms, the most widely disseminated public voices, "they control access to the high-tech professions," and they administer the agencies of coercion (the military and federal law enforcement). "They own the levers of enforcement ... they control the commanding heights of our society," he said. These are not elective positions, "you can't vote them out ... [and] they are not your friends." Christians need to recognize that "this is not a possible future; this is what we're in now."

These "anti-Christian institutions of our society are going to persecute regardless" of elections. Because Judeo-Christian values are being "expressly rejected" by the leaders of society, electoral victories will not stop the oncoming persecution.

But "a church that is in the minority thinks differently than a church that is in the majority." In a majority Christian nation, an appeal may be made to make social standards conform to a Christian ideal of righteousness, whereas a church in the minority will focus on bringing Jesus and his lordship into people's lives and living in faithfulness. "We're looking at survival," he said.

This was the ministry of the early church, Brunson observed. The focus was on obedience, and "loving God." This "ended up impacting everyone around them." Many Christians still have a majority mentality of affecting public policy, which may succeed in slowing down moral decline and anti-Christian hostility, "but I don't believe we will be able to stop it." But the real question is "how do we maintain obedience and faithfulness and the light of the gospel, when we are surrounded by darkness?" Christians will be a minority, and "a despised minority."

Lines of Attack

Brunson then turned to two major issues over which Christians will be persecuted. The first will be particular salvation, the doctrine that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. "Many people will be uncomfortable" with this, because an appeal to truth is being made, "and that's not very inclusive." Secondly, there is the demand for obedience. Biblical justice is very different from "social justice' as the latter is now understood. "Marriage, life, sexual morality, and gender identity" are all areas of conflict. "Biblical standards are increasingly seen as 'hate speech'" he said. Pastors do not discuss Biblical morality even in church, because they don't want push back from their congregants. People have been 'marinated" in the values of the contemporary world, which is oriented to gratification. They regard appeals to Biblical morality as "political," when in fact they are God's eternal standards, binding at all times and places.

Brunson then said we should not expect the world to be moved by appeals to righteousness or examples of faithfulness. Jesus warned us that we should not expect this, and "this is a temptation that only arises when you're in a Christian culture." Religious freedom and liberty of conscience have not characterized most societies in the past, he observed. It is rather to be expected that "people hate you." Although Jesus "was about loving, the most compassionate man in all of history," nevertheless, "people said he was evil, they said he was demonic, and deranged," and a threat to society. People will say the same of Jesus' followers in an anti-Christian society.

Although the struggle for the sanctity of life will be a cause for persecution, Brunson believes that gender ideology will be the principal line of attack. Christians will be told that expression of or adherence to Christian sexual morality is "hateful [that] you make me feel uncomfortable, you make me feel unsafe, and hate has no rights ... so you must be shunned, you must be punished." Among other things, we can expect censorship "across all layers of the legacy Internet track, with only rare exceptions." People will be de-banked, have the credit cards cancelled, barred from financial services because of adherence to Biblical commands.

He pointed to the surveillance state and social credit system in China as an example of what might happen in America. The social credit system affects not only the individual, whose privileges increase with conformity to state values, and decrease with deviations, but also affects with social credit of one's family and friends. It is easy to see that Christians will be an underclass in this situation. He said that Chinese Christians are especially concerned about how they will live without banking or other services.

Brunson referred to the case of Sam Brownback, formerly Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom in the Trump Administration, who began a non-profit organization, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, which was in fact bi-partisan in its composition, but had its account cancelled by JPMorgan Chase.

The case of Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom was given to show that de-banking is also happening in other Western countries. In the case of Farage, who seems to have been de-banked not for religious reasons but for his nationalist beliefs, internal bank documents were discovered which said that Farage didn't conform to the values of the bank. This was an entirely ideological reason, not at all related to the concern of the bank, which is making money. Many people, including members of Parliament, then sent Farage letters saying that they had been de-banked as well. But they were not going public with their experience, since they feared that it might be difficult to access other banks and financial services.

Brunson then related that de-banking had also happened to him, with a bank account he had held since 1985, and also to his wife and his son. In Brunson's case (and others) further inquiry resulted in the bank claiming the cancellation of "inadvertent." This dependency on institutions that regard Christian morality as unacceptable will become greater as society becomes even more dependent on digital technology, Brunson said.

Another avenue of attack will be professional certification and licensure. Such credentialing may not be granted or will be revoked due to "hateful views." This will affect particularly medical doctors with respect to abortion or sexual anatomy altering surgery, but also many other professions. Similarly, accreditation of schools is also a credentialing, which can be made contingent on rejection of Christian morality.

Thus, both financial and social pressures will be used to coerce Christians into accepting a universalist soteriology and/or the sexual revolution (or whatever else the state determines to be an oppressive belief which calls for liberation). With more and more institutions now working under the ideological commitments of the post-Christian Left, Brunson believes we may reach "a tipping point," after which ideological standards can be applied very quickly to many people across a broad range of issues.

Brunson then discussed the worldview assumptions behind the current hostile environment and how Christians should respond, especially in terms of the focus of the mission of the church, and these comments will be reviewed in a subsequent article.

Andrew Brunson Offers a View of Impending Persecution -- Part 2

A previous article reviewed the comments of pastor Andrew Brunson concerning the dramatic increase in hostility to Christianity he observed between the time he left the United States for ministry in Turkey in 1993 and the time of his return to the country in 2018. This period also involved a dramatic decline in religious freedom. He concluded his discussion with comments about the worldview assumptions behind the hostility, and how Christians should respond to the new, negative world.

The Basis of Persecution in Worldview

Brunson observed that "the worldview of most millennials... is called moralistic therapeutic deism." It holds that "God exists, God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other ... and the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself," God is held to help people out in crises but is otherwise uninvolved in one's life. Finally, "good people go to heaven when they die." The view that the point of life is to be nice and be happy is predominant in society and "widespread in the church," Brunson said. It is quite common for people in the church who are under 40 years old. Thus, a very large part of the public is holding a morality contrary to the Bible. In this regard, Brunson said that about 21% of people under the age of 30 identify as LGBT, whether or not they are sexually active. The identification is for many more of an identification with LGBT ideology. Out of 115 universities, a quarter of the student body identified as LGBT. It is from these schools that future leaders will come. Brunson said that 41% of Generation Z "support censorship for hate speech," while 23% support the use of violence to silence "hate speech." While we can be happy that the Supreme Court is currently supporting religious freedom, it may not do so in the future since "elite law schools are functionally atheistic." But this is "where most future judges are trained."

In this environment, "religious freedom is increasingly seen as an issue of the political right." As has often been noted, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was passed almost unanimously by Congress, but today could not possibly be passed. He quoted Associate Justice Samuel Alito to say that "it is hard to convince people that religious liberty is worth saving, if they don't think that religion is a good thing."

Brunson assured his listeners that "God is always at work ... His kingdom is advancing, and it will continue to advance." However, in this country, "we are seeing a great exodus from the church." The number of people with no religion ("nones") "has increased by tens of millions." Thus, many people "who attended church regularly as children" now profess no religion. He also pointed out that many "nones" have come from Evangelical churches, and many underscore their disagreement with Christian sexual morality as the reason, or an important reason, for their departure.

Another important factor affecting worldview is that under the coronavirus lockdown, government was much more "intrusive." The levels of control and surveillance dramatically increased in Western democracies. This level of control had never been experienced in the past, but most people accepted it at the time of the shutdown, "and it can be activated again." Another sign of an increasingly controlled society is "the weaponization of the financial system against Russia" in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Russians travelling abroad were stranded when their credit cards did not work. It can be expected that the same thing may "happen to faithful followers of Jesus," now defined as "evil, hateful people."

Brunson also observed that BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street own 20% of the S&P 500 companies. With this degree of control, they can pressure corporate executives in the companies in which they are invested "to do what they say." He pointed out that Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, has made "very explicit" his desire to force social change through the financial power of these investment giants. He has said that "behaviors are going to have to change, you have to force behaviors, and at BlackRock, we're forcing behaviors." Another threat to personal freedom in the financial system is the prospect of digital currencies. These currencies would give government "unprecedented surveillance and control over all [financial] transactions."

Artificial intelligence is another factor in the surveillance society. It makes the systems of control "work much more efficiently and faster." It was noted that one expert has said that "AI is highly likely to controller for everything in the world," and "these are just some of the challenges coming," it was added.

Responding to the New Negative Environment

Brunson observed that in 2018, while he was still in prison, a Religious Freedom Ministerial was held in Washington, since the Trump Administration placed a high value on religious freedom. Officials (ambassadors and foreign ministers) from many nations attended. He spoke at the ministerial the next year, since he had been released at that point. Over 100 counties were present at that ministerial. But the Biden Administration cancelled the ministerial. He predicted that there would be no ministerials in the future "because we are no longer going to be defending religious freedom to the same degree."

He also pointed to people prosecuted for their opposition to homosexuality. Paivi Rasanen is a Finnish member of Parliament being prosecuted for sending a tweet quoting a Bible verse condemning homosexuality. The legal process against her is still ongoing, but the penalty being sought has been changed from two years in prison to "heavy, heavy fines." A hate speech law in Ireland says that any material held electronically that is determined to be "hate speech" is a crime. Similarly an international soccer star in Greece was convicted for criticizing the sexual mutilation of sex-confused minors, and "received a prison sentence." In Malta, a man is being prosecuted for giving his testimony of freedom from homosexuality on television. In Mexico, a former congressman was convicted of "gender-based political violence" for saying that a man is not a woman. Hungary is being punished by the European Union for passing a law saying that children under the age of 18 cannot be targeted with sexual materials. The U.S. and other Western countries are pressing the same coercive policies on non-Western countries. This in turn leads to a loss of moral credibility of the U.S. in non-Western countries. Brunson quoted one foreign commentator as saying "why should I listen to you when you talk about religious freedom?" He and other non-Westerners can easily see that we are not protecting religious freedom at home, and gender ideology is quite irrational. Brunson believes that Christians "are going to be persecuted more than they are now."

Brunson said that "I'm not a defeatist ... God wants us to be filled with hope and confidence, but not a false optimism." He referred the Pascal's wager, that in view of eternity, it is better to risk being a believer than an unbeliever. In terms of impending persecution, it is better to be prepared for a persecution that does not happen, than to be unprepared for a persecution that does happen. We must "have a realistic view of what we're facing, and to prepare our hearts for it."

Important in preparation, Brunson said, will be building a small and committed body of believers. He said that during his imprisonment, he was isolated from other believers, and "felt so weak." A single believer with whom he could pray would have been very helpful. He went on to say that many securities that Christians trusted in in the past (presumably including America and its historic freedoms) are being shaken. God is moving to get our attention. He seeks "obedience, not understanding," Brunson said. Immediate relief may not be what God will give us. It might be better to direct our prayer life from "praying ourselves out of it, to praying ourselves through it."

A questioner asked how in the current condition of America, we should "pray, vote, and stand." Brunson responded that while some Christians expect a great revival, "a refining fire" will come first. There will be a continued exodus from Christianity, "especially if pressure increases." But "what will be left is a faithful church, a pure church, a powerful church, a beautiful church, that will be full of light." It is to that church that people will come. Research shows that fewer people "want Christianity," but those who do want a faith which is "more rigorous and demanding." In particular, anyone in Generation Z who wants to follow Christ will have "to go against very powerful currents of our culture." This will mean a smaller church, but "a more committed, more zealous" church. The "sequence," he said, is "the refining fire," then "the revival fire."

In sharing his personal story of imprisonment, he said that in the first year, he questioned God, and in the second year, he rebuilt his faith. He ended with a stronger and deeper faith. His objective is now to encourage other believers who may face persecution to remain steadfast in faith and obedience. His video series, Prepare to Stand, aims at exactly this. He referred in support of his work to Dan. 11;32, "the people who know their God shall stand." (ESV) "Love fuels faithfulness" Brunson said. "Even with doubts and questions, uncertainty and fear," our love for God will enable us to remain faithful to him.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top